Laskiainen Slides Into 82nd Year
Finnish Sliding Festival Continues in Northland
DULUTH, Minn.-This weekend’s warmer weather was perfect to get outside, and folks in Palo celebrated the great Northland landscape the same way they have for the last 82 years.
Laskiainen, or the Finnish Sliding Festival, slid into its 82nd year.
What started as a Finnish winter tradition is now a tradition perfectly fitting the Northland.
People from as far as Duluth and Carlton gathered in Palo, sleds and toboggans at the ready.
“It’s Laskianen, it’s 4 syllables it’s not 3,” said Vivian Williams, lead organizer.
“People, when they say it they like to say ‘laskinen.’ No. It’s Lask–ee–i–nen.”
A very complicated word, for a pretty straightforward event.
“It is a Finnish Sliding Festival,” Williams said. “The farther you sled down the hill, the better your flax crop would grow the next year.”
82 years this Finnish tradition has taken root in the Northland, and soon it became more than just Finnish.
“She’s not Finnish,” said Williams, looking around. “Most of our volunteers are no longer Finnish, because we’re not a Finnish community anymore.”
So how has it lasted more than 8 decades?
“I suppose the Fins have SISU,” she said, a Finnish concept meaning incredible strength and determination.
That SISU is visible in the Loon Lake Museum here, chock full of Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish artifacts.
“Early 1900s, late 1800s to early 1900s,” Gerry Kanges said, describing the age of the artifacts.
She’s been volunteering in the museum, as she puts it “too many years to count.” And she stays committed for one reason.
“So the young people can kind of teach them the ways of how it was before. That’s the whole idea of the museum and the weaving and the spinning.”
Making an impact on younger generations drives the museum to thrive.
“Let’s supposing a young person watches the weaving for instance. It might spur them to try it,” Kanges said.
“And I have seen many young people go on to do some really great things. And they started and learned it from somebody here.”
But the star attraction of the festival sits outside.
Kids skate by pulled on sleds by disgruntled parents and older siblings, filling up the line going up the hill.
“The ice sled,” said young Hank Kettlehut. He’s very happy that his time on the hill went alright.
“That I didn’t get hurt when I thought I was gonna do a front flip, and you went really fast.”
“You go really fast and at the end you slide super far,” said his friend, Phoebe Sorenson.
The huge slope speckled with young and old, anxious to careen down onto the frozen white plains of Loon Lake.